The disgrace of the public loo debate

One of the most enduring arguments in the fight for trans rights is the insistence that if trans women have access to female bathrooms, only violence will ensue. That opening our public loos to women who were born with male genitals will result in aggression and assault. With the introduction of unisex, non-binary and ungendered toilets in public spaces such as cafés and supermarkets it feels as though this is a topic we just can’t drop. Something I have never been able to wrap my head around, though, is how this has been presented as a legitimate worry instead of the trans-phobic rhetoric that it truly is.

Men abuse women every day. Many of our public spaces are unsafe for women already. Our private spaces are often just as treacherous. These are places in which men and women are allowed to co-exist, and places in which they aren’t. The point is that men who are going to abuse women and children do not need to sneak into female spaces – society affords them plenty of opportunity to do so without forcing them to dress in skirts and take on new names. The only consequence of allowing transgender people to use the toilet that corresponds with their outward appearance is that they are at less risk of violence. And for a group of people who face more violence and abuse than any other, who suffer injustices, aggression and downright bullying every day of their lives, isn’t that a good thing?

I want to live in a gentle world. I want to live in a society that values individuality and difference. I want to raise my kid in a community where they feel safe, not in this broken dystopia of racism, misogyny, homo- and trans-phobia. Making bathrooms gender neutral is one way of stepping neatly into that future, one way that helps non-binary individuals in particular to feel more accepted. If we cannot bear the thought of gender neutral loos, at least shutting up about trans women using female public toilets would be a move in the right direction. It is a non-argument, a nonsense thing that hateful people scream in the face of change.

If it were up to me, I’d do away with gendered bathrooms entirely. I would ban urinals, go back to the days of employing toilet attendants to keep the seats gleaming and fresh. The attendants would be paid a fair, living wage. There would be deodorant and moisturiser available in handy baskets, Dyson Airblades lining the walls in a range of heights, potted plants to give the space a cheery feel. And most importantly, for me, the cubicles would all be fitted with doors that opened out the way, so nobody ever had to squat over a seat to close the door. For me, the problems with our public loos are not that we may or may not allow people to choose to use the ones that correspond with their outward appearance: the problems are that they are often disgusting. If we’re all going to get in a tizzy about public toilets, can we at least agree to start making them nice?